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Thursday, January 28, 2010


Today I return to the chronicling America web site with some interesting reports (all aquatic) of sea serpents off Tacoma, Washington State, in 1893 and 1896 - the latter was not only drawn, but photographed no less - a horned sea monster off the Cook Islands in 1899 and a hot-water octopus from Steamboat springs near Reno, Nevada, in 1908. Unfortunately, due either to the inefficency of my printer or my inability to multi-task, the quality of the image of the Cook Islands story means I cannot report on the whole story, but interested cryptozoologists can read it in full at The San Francisco Call on June 18th 1899 http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

The sea serpent story is as follows (again from the San Francisco Call June 28th 1896. I have scanned Jon an artist`s impression of the creature). THEY CAPTURED A SEA SERPENT. Seventeen Feet Long and Weighs One Hundred and Fifty Four Pounds. Smooth Skin, With Spots Like Those of a Rattlesnake – Ferocious as a Tiger.

The sea serpent has at last been taken alive in his native haunt, if this the placid waters of Puget Sound can be called the haunt of such an animal, where the majestic snow clad Mount Tacoma towering as a sentinel gives a picture nowhere equalled on the North American continent…the sea serpent was never thought of until two Tacoma fishermen, R. E. Mc Clean and W. J. Kennedy, while fishing for black bass about two miles north of the Humi Humi River, which empties into Hoods Canal near this city, made the catch…when their attention was attracted to a commotion in the net, and the water becoming agitated was followed immediately by the head of the monster appearing above the surface…The monster was as ferocious as a tiger, and bit and snapped the gaff stick
(1) in pieces, and when hauled on the beach rushed back over the sands with the 100 feet of line and swam out to sea as far as it could go. The reptile was seventeen feet long and as big around as a man`s body, and has every characteristic of the snake except the head, which is much like that of the pugnacious bulldog. The under jaw is heavy and covered with skin, the eyes are as large as a man`s and as bright, and will follow the movements of a person as closely as the eyes of a cat follow a mouse, and without the animal ever moving its head. The general color of the serpent is darkish blue with spots much like those of a rattlesnake, the spots fading out into lighter blue at the circumference. The skin is smooth like that of the snake. The monster is finned much like the halibut, having a long dorsal, very thin running down the back, while underneath there is a similar fin, but only near the caudal extremity. The animal`s jaws are set with rows of sharp teeth, like those of a cat, and the great strength of the jaw enables it to sink its fangs to the base in a stick of wood.

…The fishermen have been relieved of their burden by Gilbert Girard, the actor,who happened to stop this way on his way East and who intends presenting the monster to the Smithsonian Institution.' (2)

So was this some kind of eel?

Three years earlier, in 1893, another even weirder sea serpent was seen: this fish story allegedly happened on July 2 1893, and was reported in the July 3 issue of the Tacoma Daily Ledger. "We left Tacoma July 1,Saturday,about 4.30pm and as the wind was from the southeast we shaped our course for Point Defiance.” …Sometime after midnight, the sleeping campers were startled by a terrifying noise. A stinging sensation like thousands of electrified needle points suddenly stabbed through their clothing…

I turned my head… and if it is possible for fright to turn one`s hair white, then mine ought to be snow white” (the reporter taking notes indicated the Eastener`s hair was still black) “for right before my eyes was a most horrible looking monster. The monster slowly drew in toward shore and as it approached, its head pored out a stream of water that looked like blue flame.” Hesitantly, the stranger described the creature as 150ft long and thirty feet in circumference. He confided, “ its shape was somewhat out of the ordinary insofar that the body was neitheror flat but oval. It had course hair on the upper part of the body.'

And now, the Cook Islands monster:

Tale of a Big Horned Fish and a Feast of Antipodean Natives. This story is too faint to reproduce accurately but basically what happened in 1899 was that a fish (if that is what it was) thirty feet long with two horns on its head two feet long and scaly skin was washed ashore on the east coast of one of the Cook Islands. One group of islanders nearest the fish thought it best not to eat it because they feared the horned 'fish' was from the Devil but the second group thought hard and had a convention and eventually decided that all food was from God and persuaded the other islanders that it was O.K. to eat the 'fish.' (4)

Finally, a (presumably?) freshwater octopus or 'devil fish' (interesting coincidence, see previous item above) in Nevada. Not only freshwater, but hot water: DYNAMITE IN PIPE KILLS HOT WATER OCTOPUS. Strange Creature Eight Feet Long Is Blown Up In Boiling Spring.

A massive soft shelled devilfish one of the queerest freaks ever seen in Nevada, was killed in a boiling spring at Steamboat springs near this place
[ i.e Reno-R] yesterday afternoon by John Maddison Gray, a well known man in Reno. Gray was examining spouting geysers when the massive octopus spread its tentacles above the opening. Gray attempted to kill the creature with a club, but failing in this, filled a piece of pipe with dynamite to which he attached a fuse through a rubber hose. In this way the charge was exploded and the devil fish went high into the air and killed.

The octopus meausures eight feet from tip to tip of its large tentacles…and is on display in the office of Judge Dewitt C. Turner…an effort will be made to send the curiosity to Washington for classification. The fact that it was able to live in boiling hot water which comes from the spring is what is puzzling local scientists most.'
(5) And us at the CFZ 102 years on!

Arment has reports of freshwater octopi in U.S. from the 20th and 21st centuries but most of the reports can be explained. None were recorded from Nevada. (6)

1 Gaff stick- A stick with a hook or barbed spear, for landing large fish Concise Oxford English Dictionary.(2008) p.581
2 The San Francisco Call. June 28 1896
3 The Shadowlands Sea Serpent page Tacoma Sea Monster 1893 http://theshadowlands.net/serpent2.htm

4 The San Francisco Call June 18 1899
5 The San Francisco Call June 25th 1908
6 Chad Arment Cryptozoology and the Investigation of Lesser Known Mystery Animals (2006 ) pp 71-89

I was going to present lyrics from Marrowbones by Steeleye Span but I`ve run out of time.Sorry!


1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

It just so happens I was just working on reports of freshwater octopi; thanks for the Reno one, I had not heard that report before. There are several reports around Indiana whhere I live, several that are NOT on the books also.

Your first account is evidently a corpse already in some degree of decau but it obviously has the head of a beaked whale. The rest of the body seems to be deleted, sagging or has parts missing.

The Cook Islands report sounds interesting but it is probably another decayed shark-pseudoplesiosaur. I would not advise eating any such a thing.